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Dean Harold Hongju Koh Discusses Sustainability

In his welcome to students at the start of the school year, Dean Harold Hongju Koh outlined green initiatives being undertaken by the Law School as part of Yale University-wide sustainability efforts.

One challenge we all face as citizens of Yale and the world is how to live a sustainable lifestyle in our homes, workplaces, and communities.  During the fall of 2004, the Yale Energy Task Force, a university-wide committee with staff, faculty and student representation, was convened to respond to the challenge of increasing energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Following a thorough review, the University’s Officers adopted the Task Force’s recommendation that Yale set as a campus-wide goal a reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by 10% below our 1990 levels by the year 2020. This goal comports with a similar commitment made by the Connecticut State Legislature and the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers Climate Action Plan.  In adopting this goal, Yale became one of the first universities in the country to commit to a fifteen-year strategic energy plan, which seeks to reduce the carbon footprint of a major private university through a combination of energy conservation, alternative energy sources, Renewable Energy Certificates, and implementing on-site renewable and clean energy demonstration projects.

In doing our part to accomplish this goal, the Law School has a special challenge as we plan to add a second site (the Swing Dorm on Tower Parkway) by 2013.  A pressing question, at a time of soaring energy prices and growing concern about global warming, is whether the Law School can move to a larger physical footprint without increasing our carbon footprint. With this objective in mind—sustainable expansion—the  Law School staff held a retreat this summer to strategize about large and small sustainability initiatives to be implemented during this academic year. As a result of that very useful retreat, we are now joining with the University on a number of green initiatives designed to reduce our carbon footprint and to help us work together as a community of faculty, staff, and students toward a more sustainable future for our campus:

•    Some of these ideas are small and obvious changes we can make right away, for example, turning off lights, carpooling or using public transportation, or using mugs and silverware instead of disposable items.

•    Our Information Technology (IT) Services department is working actively to reduce the School’s use of energy, adding automated power saving on all desktops, purchasing Energy Star-rated servers, moving to “server virtualization” (which uses servers more efficiently), recycling toner cartridges and old computers, setting hardware to “sleep” mode when not in use, and encouraging double-sided (duplex) printing.  Those who use Law School computers can aid this goal by making sure to turn off your monitors each night.

•    Our Building Services department uses compact fluorescent lightbulbs, reduces heating and cooling in the building on evenings and weekends, and assists with recycling efforts in the building.

•    Our Dining Hall has switched to eco-friendly paper plates and catering products, offers a discount to those using reusable coffee mugs, purchases many natural and organic products from local farmers and vendors, and is reducing the use of plastic water bottles where possible.

•    In addition, the Law School’s newly inaugurated “Green Team,” headed by Associate Director of Student Affairs Maura Sichol-Sprague ( and Director of Alumni Affairs Abby Roth (, is working on some larger Law School initiatives, which we will inform you of in the near future.  Please email them with any suggestions that you may have.  And please stay tuned for more information about the "Most Sustainable Small Group" award, which will pair student small groups and staff to generate and implement green ideas.

•    The Yale Environmental Law Association, chaired by Livia DeMarchis, Rebecca Freeland, Jessica Gordon, and Elizabeth Phelps, is already deeply involved in sustainability issues and has successfully sponsored a number of events that examine environmental changes, law, and policy, including some that can be implemented here at the Law School.

•    Through cutting-edge scholarship and practice, our faculty and students are also helping to define policies to create a more sustainable future in the U.S. and around the world.  This year we are particularly excited to welcome our new Professors Tom Merrill and Doug Kysar and Visiting Professor Jed Purdy to our faculty who already work in environmental law.  For those who need an introduction to sustainability as a legal concept, please make a note to attend Professor Dan Esty's Dean's Introductory Lecture, "Rethinking Environmental Law: Putting Innovation at the Heart of Environmental Protection," on Friday, September 19, at 10:45 a.m. in Room 127.

•    Zip cars and other alternate forms of transportation are being brought to campus. To learn about these initiatives and other resources on the Yale campus, please visit the website of the Yale Office of Sustainability ( ), and browse the student-run sustainability blog for news, tips and event information, where you can take the Yale Sustainability Pledge, and learn about how the Law School’s efforts fit into the broader University plan.

In these difficult economic times, saving energy is no longer merely an optional act of social do-goodism. Every bit of energy conserved means that more of our scarce resources can be made available for travel money, scholarships, salaries, community events, and all of the things that make our community special. A greener school year will help guarantee a great school year. I thank you for your support in this effort and ask you all for your help and ingenuity in making us a leader in this area, as we are in so many others.